Indicted Minnesota Attorney Changes Plea to Guilty in 'Porn Trolling' Case

August 17, 2018 06:25 PM

A Minneapolis attorney whose license was suspended has changed his plea to guilty in connection with a case involving fraudulent copyright lawsuits.

Paul Hansmeier was indicted in December 2016, charged with conspiring to extort $6 million from thousands of people through "porn trolling" lawsuits.

Advertisement

A second attorney also involved in the case, John L. Steele, pleaded guilty in March 2017 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

RELATED: Attorney Pleads Guilty in Multimillion Dollar Scheme Involving Porn Downloads

According to Steele at the time, he and Hansmeier created a series of fake entities through which they obtained copyrights to pornographic movies, some of which they filmed themselves, and then uploaded the films to file sharing websites to lure others to download them.

The attorneys would then file fake copyright infringement lawsuits, concealing their own roles in the distribution of the films. Steele admitted to investigators he and Hansmeier would threaten the individuals involved in the fake lawsuits with financial penalties and public embarrassment if they didn't agree to pay a settlement fee.

"The conduct of Hansmeier and Steele was outrageous," former U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Andrew Luger said at the time. "They used deceptive lawsuits and unsuspecting judges to extort millions from vulnerable people."

Hansmeier had previously pleaded "not guilty" in connection with the case.

According to the plea agreement, Hansmeier has now pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering.

As a result of the plea agreement, so long as Hansmeier complies with the terms, the remaining 16 counts will be dismissed.

Also in December 2016, the FBI investigated Hansmeier for the way he filed disability-access lawsuits.

RELATED: FBI Investigating Indicted Minnesota Attorney Involved in Disability-Access Lawsuits

After his practices were determined to be unethical and deceptive by the state's supreme court, Hansmeier began seeking settlement cases on behalf of non-profit groups, like the Disability Support Alliance.

RELATED: FBI Investigating Indicted Minnesota Attorney Involved in Disability-Access Lawsuits

According to a district court filing, the DSA began noticing cash withdrawals from January through February 2016 from an ATM in Burnsville. In an examination of the DSA's bank account, investigators learned Hansmeier had transferred approximately $304,718 from a fund established by the DSA for litigation proceeds and had also taken an additional $7,500 of client money.

Credits

Rebecca Omastiak

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

Advertisement

Minneapolis asks residents to report flooding as it happens

Trump slams congresswoman Omar; crowd roars, 'Send her back!'

Cottage Grove police respond to storage facility after reported assault

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo: 'I need 1,000 officers by 2025'

Mudslide temporarily disrupts Green Line, raises concerns as more storms approach

Early storms set up a hot Thursday

Advertisement